School & District Management

Bus Driver Shortages Still Wreak Havoc on Schools and Students

By Mark Lieberman — November 11, 2022 2 min read
Row of empty school buses parked in a lot on a sunny day
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Schools nationwide are cutting bus service to account for a widespread shortage of bus drivers—and students are paying the price by missing school more often.

Those are the main takeaways from a report published this month from HopSkipDrive, a private school transportation provider. The report includes results from a nationally representative survey of school and district leaders, transportation directors, counselors, and other employees.

More than two-thirds of survey respondents said they see a link between driver staffing challenges and chronic absenteeism. Exactly half of respondents said they believe access to transportation and educational equity are linked in their district.

One anonymous respondent said special education students have the lowest attendance of any population in the district. “With the school bus driver shortage, if a route is not running, the students do not have a way to get to school,” the respondent said.

Students in Ohio’s Reynoldsburg district have had to learn remotely one or two days a week this year because staffing shortages forced bus service cuts. In Anchorage, Alaska, families get bus service for three weeks at a time, then miss out for six weeks as the routes rotate to other areas. Elsewhere, according to media reports, shortages have been responsible for students missing class or getting home from school late, athletic events getting canceled or rescheduled, and districts investing in expensive charter buses or rental vehicles to fill gaps.

Nearly 9 in 10 HopSkipDrive survey respondents said driver shortages have constrained their school or district’s operations this year. Three in 10 respondents said those constraints have been severe.

See Also

A sign advertises for school bus drivers outside Norris Middle School in Omaha, Neb., on July 29, 2020.
A sign advertises for school bus drivers outside Norris Middle School in Omaha, Neb., on July 29, 2020.
Nati Harnik/AP

Why aren’t there enough drivers? There are a few reasons:

  • Driver positions are frequently underpaid and undervalued compared with similar jobs with non-public institutions.
  • Driving a bus full of young children with no other adults on board can be taxing and even dangerous, deterring people from applying.
  • Working conditions have led drivers to strike (most recently, in places like Du Quoin, N.C.; Franklin County, Tenn.; Livingston Parish, La.; and Socorro, Texas.)
  • Older drivers may be wary of being on the job while COVID-19 is still spreading.
  • Community outbreaks of COVID, flu, and the RSV respiratory virus are causing further disruptions this fall.

Many districts have turned to asking teachers, cafeteria workers, principals, and even superintendents to fill driver gaps, sometimes for bonuses. The Nash County district in North Carolina is even considering requiring employees in a wide variety of academic, administrative, and clerical positions to obtain a bus driving license.

Read the full HopSkipDrive survey, and check out Education Week’s special report on staffing challenges.


Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Families & the Community Webinar
How Whole-Child Student Data Can Strengthen Family Connections
Learn how district leaders can use these actionable strategies to increase family engagement in their student’s education and boost their academic achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management After a Rash of Student Suicides, This School District Stepped Up
Hopeless at first over a student mental health crisis, Colorado's Cherry Creek school leaders decided to build a day-treatment program.
13 min read
Image of a bridge made of puzzle pieces with the middle piece moving to connect the two sides.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management What Superintendents Say They Need More of to Help Them Manage Districts
98% of those surveyed said better data would make them more comfortable making decisions.
2 min read
Image of a data dashboard.
Suppachok Nuthep/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Principals Give Thanks—and Shoutouts—to School Support Staff
Custodians, lunchroom aides, secretaries, and bus drivers are “too often forgotten and underappreciated.”
7 min read
Image of a framed smiley face.
School & District Management How to Recruit and Retain School Board Members of Color
Pay, staffing, and support are key ingredients to persuade people of color to run for their local school board, experts say.
5 min read
Illustration showing diversity with multi-colored human figures.